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TEACHING OUR CHILDREN ABOUT TRUTH, KINDNESS AND THE REALITY OF BEING NICE

Kelly Bos

CAN WE HANDLE IT?

I recently read a post by Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat Pray Love about the lessons she struggled to learn regarding being nice over telling people a needed truth. She explains in withholding truth you are demeaning or infantilizing people and keeping them from important growth.

As a therapist I often have to expose difficult realities and although I try to be gentle in my approach the insights can be hard to swallow for the recipient. I have the benefit of a therapeutic relationship, cultivated trust, and the fact that people are often seeking truth by entering therapy. But even in these relationships — and of course in my personal life — I've been guilty of choosing kindness over truth in my support of someone. It is sometimes out of politeness, fear of hurting someone, fear of being rejected, and it is even a bit cultural — we Canadians are known for our niceness. Think of the times you have nodded emphatically with your friend over her misplaced anger towards her partner, workplace, neighbour...., and therefore, failing to help her take responsibility for her own glaring part in the situation.

With parenting, we want our kids to learn to tell the truth but we really want them to be nice, don't we? As Gilbert once learned from her ethics professor, "Most of us grew up in families where our parents demanded the truth, but they couldn't deal with it… and so we all learned how to lie." As it turns out we can't handle the truth. So when our kids share that they find their judo teacher mean, they don'ts ant to play with the other kids, or that we yell too much… it all becomes silenced. The fact is that the judo teacher isn't address students respectfully and it needs to be said, that those kids are too rough and are acting mean spirited, or that we are yelling too much and should look at it...

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